Carol Borden writes about comics and (many other things) at The Cultural Gutter, a website dedicated to thoughtful writing about disreputable art.
2017 has been a year I liked a lot of nautical and oceanically themed books, movies, soundtracks and coloring books. I didn’t notice at the time, but that is part of the fun of looking back on what I’ve been reading, listening to and watching.
Best Soundtrack I Couldn’t Stop Listening To: The Lure / Ballady I Romanse, Corki Dancingu
In a year when I have been listening to a lot of soundtracks, The Lure has been in my headphones a lot. Get both the original soundtrack and Polish synth duo Ballade I Romanse’s collection of songs they wrote for the film, a.k.a., Corki Dancingu. “Hey,” you might say. “Those are the same.” Well, yeah, except one is the songs as they appear in the murderous mermaid musical and the other is Ballady I Romanse’s synthtastic versions of the songs they wrote for the film.
Best Blu-Release of an Amazing Werewolf Movie: Wolf Guy (Arrow, 2017)
Sonny Chiba never transforms because Sonny Chiba is the ultimate werewolf form.
Best Biopic: Atomic Blonde is my favorite documentary about the legendary Debbie Harry’s life outside of Blondie.
Best John Wick Movie of 2017: A tie between Atomic Blonde and Jung Byung-gil’s The Villainess.
Best Katana/Motorcycle Fight: The Villainess, stunt choreography by Kwon Kwi-duk.
Most Sympathetic Monster: The little monster girl in Giddens Ko’s Mon-mon-mon-Monsters!*
Most Horrible Teenagers In A Movie About Awful Teenagers: The teens in Mon-mon-mon-Monsters!
Best Dog In A Film: Nellie as Marvin in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson.
Best Film That Is Pretty Much A Poem: Paterson.
Movie That Gave Me The Most Chills This Year: Oz Perkins’ I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House
I Am The Pretty Thing was released in 2016, but I only got around to watching for Halloween this year. Ruth Wilson plays, Lily, a live-in caretaker for author Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss), who suffers from dementia. The film feels like a Shirley Jackson story, even sounds like one, and Blum resembles Patricia Highsmith in the 1950s. “A house with a death in it can never again be bought or sold by the living. It can only be borrowed by the ghosts who have stayed behind.”
Best Jellyfish-Themed Manga: Princess Jellyfish (Kodansha USA)
It has everything: geek girls living together in a women-only building, evil developers, genderqueerness, jellyfish, jokes about China’s Three Kingdoms period, food, dolls, fashion and the fear of the Stylish. Plus, bonus comics about writer/artist Akiko Higashimura’s life as a geeky woman. Fun and a fine distraction in difficult times.
Best Lovely, Sad Fairytale: The Girl From The Other Side: Siuil A Run (Seven Seas Entertainment, 2017)
Shiva is a little girl who lives in a house in the woods with her Teacher while she waits for her aunt to take her home. Teacher cares for Shiva, but they can never touch because he is an Outsider and the touch of an Outsider would curse Shiva. And her aunt would never take a cursed girl home. I love Nagabe’s long lines and use of contrasts between black and white, angles and roundness.
Best Depiction of Depression and Loneliness: My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness (Seven Seas Entertainment, 2017)
Kabi Nagata writes about her realization that she is a Lesbian, her desire to be an artist and her experiences with depression. It’s honest and sad and funny all at once.
Favorite Single Issue Of An Ongoing Comic: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26: The Zine Issue (Marvel, 2017)
Ryan North and Erica Henderson did a *zine* issue. This gets me right in my cut ‘n’ paste heart. Squirrel Girl raises fund to rebuild a library destroyed in a superhero fight. She does it not by putting on a show, but by making a zine. She asks her friends Tippy-Toe, Nancy Whitehead, Kraven the Hunter, Howard the Duck, Spider-Man, Loki, and Galactus to draw comics for her. (Carla Speed McNeil, Chip Zdarsky, Madeline McGrane, Tom Fowler, Rico Renzi Michael Cho, Rahzzah, Anders Nilsen, Travis Lanham, Soren Iverson and even Garfield creator, Jim Davis provide art!)
The Best Coloring Book of 2017 is Jeremy Bastien’s Cursed Pirate Girl Coloring Book (2017)
Based on his excellent Cursed Pirate Girl comic, there is all the intricate, gorgeous, 18th Century illustration-inflected art with curlicues and cursed pirate girls to color that you could ever want.
Favorite New-To-Me Podcast: The Adventure Zone
The McElmore family use roleplaying games to produce quality storytelling with engaging characters and it makes me laugh. I’m working on the Balance Arc right now, featuring: a human man devoted to protecting others after a great loss; an aging, hippie dead-beat dad Dwarf; and a gay male Elf who is both a disgraced tv cooking show host and a wizard. I suggest starting in one of the later adventures, like “the Crystal Kingdom” or “Petals to the Metal” when they get their groove going.
Best TV Sitcom About The Afterlife: The Good Place
So well-written. I know it might be stressful and I know I don’t usually care all that much about spoilers, but watch the first season. Just watch it and avoid spoilers. Then we can talk about it.
Best Heel Manager Of A Wrestling Franchise: Dario Cueto (Whatever, Vince)
It’s hard to say what’s going to happen with Lucha Underground in 2018, but no matter what, Dario Cueto has won my heart with his “unique opportunities” and his bellowing, “Ring the bell!” If I ever have a tuxedo cat, I am naming it Dario Cueto and dangling a key from its collar.
New Favorite Star Wars Characters: Doctor Aphra (from the comics, Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra) and Vice Admiral Holdo (The Last Jedi) and Rose Tico: Doctor Aphra definitely wins Best Antihero. Holdo, though, is a straight up hero. And Rose is the best.
Best Science Fiction / Horror / Comedy Novel With Zombies On A Space Whaling Ship: Nate Crowley’s The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack (Abaddon, 2017)
I wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own. I was diagnosed with chronic zombie fatigue years ago, but a friend gave me this book and it’s always good to read the books your friends give you. If I read before bed, I stay up way too late but I didn’t think that would be much of a problem, given that the book opens on a massive, commercial fishing vessel that uses the reanimated dead to flense massive alien sea creatures. It’s… visceral. And the story’s an excellent allegory for imperialism and colonialism. Also, it’s more fun that all of that might sound. So fun that I stayed up way too late night after night and my lunches got way too long, even with the dead revolting against the people who had enslaved them.
*I haven’t seen The Shape Of Water yet, so it might change, but she was a sad little monster girl.
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